PDAs vs. laptops

thinkpad II.jpg

Today I heard a couple of Ipaq owners talk about failed attempts to back up and sync their machines. This, I think, must pretty much seal the fate of the brave little PDA.

For some time now, we have seen encroachment on both sides. Phones have been adding PDAness. Laptops have been getting smaller. PDAs might have fought off this challenge but here’s why the laptop will win.

We live in a world where all missions are critical, where this is no opportunity for “do overs,” where we are either in play or not, where we are taking on the knowledge and networks necessary to negotiate an ever more dynamic world or we are humpty dumpty and sh*t out of luck.

We cannot afford a failed backup or sync. More than that we can’t endure the possibility of failure. We have to know that the data we have put in is the data we can be sure of getting out. There is no room for error.

The sync software is something less than perfectly reliable. But worse, it is almost always the case that we are making the sync or back up decision at the end of a very long day when the possibility of error is high. Chances are if the software doesn’t make a mistake, I will.

The virtue of a laptop is that everything can happen on the same machine. No syncs are called for. And now that there are Vaios and ThinkPads that are not much heavier and a good deal smaller than a hard back, the laptop is finally unburdensome. It has completed the transition from transportable to portable to hardly noticeable. I sometimes have to stop and wonder whether my ThinkPad is in my brief case or not.

There is lots of talk in marketing these days about moving from USPs to deeper kinds of value, from product benefits to consumer benefits, from incremental propositions to real and enduring kinds of value. If knowing that you have your data, all of it, in exactly the form you need it, beyond a shadow of a doubt, if this isn’t creating value of the most enduring kind for the consumer, I can’t imagine what is.

Product categories compete as products do, and its clear that the laptop creates value that the PDA actually puts in jeopardy. Hmm, I think we have a winner.

11 thoughts on “PDAs vs. laptops

  1. nathan

    I for one use and love the hipster PDA:
    h++p://www.43folders.com/2004/09/introducing_the.html

  2. Matt

    If you’re accustomed to carrying a briefcase everywhere you go and don’t actually work very much when in transit, then sure…a laptop is just as good as a PDA for convenience, and better for performance.

    But that doesn’t apply to all (or even most) of us.

    I wouldn’t consider leaving town without my laptop, any more than without a change of clothes or any of the other things that go in luggage. (And yes, a briefcase is luggage to those of us who lead largely paperless lives.) But my PDA fits in my _pocket_. I don’t even go further than the _bathroom_ without it, and thanks to its size I don’t have to.

    Unlike any laptop I’ve ever worked with or heard about, my PDA can run for at least two full working days off its battery without having to be recharged. I’m lucky if I can get two _hours_ on the laptop without plugging it in.

    My PDA can be used with a GPS attachment to provide turn-by-turn directions when I’m driving. Try that with a laptop and it’s an open question whether I’d be pulled over and arrested for reckless driving before I managed to kill a pedestrian, but either way the outcome wouldn’t be good.

    My PDA can be used while I’m walking down the street. I’d need at least one extra arm to use the laptop when I’m not sitting down.

    Seriously…before my laptop can replace my PDA, the definition of “laptop” will have to change substantially…more than enough to make it unsuitable for many of the things I use my laptop for, and make it look more like a PDA. 🙂

  3. Matt

    If you’re accustomed to carrying a briefcase everywhere you go and don’t actually work very much when in transit, then sure…a laptop is just as good as a PDA for convenience, and better for performance.

    But that doesn’t apply to all (or even most) of us.

    I wouldn’t consider leaving town without my laptop, any more than without a change of clothes or any of the other things that go in luggage. (And yes, a briefcase is luggage to those of us who lead largely paperless lives.) But my PDA fits in my _pocket_. I don’t even go further than the _bathroom_ without it, and thanks to its size I don’t have to.

    Unlike any laptop I’ve ever worked with or heard about, my PDA can run for at least two full working days off its battery without having to be recharged. I’m lucky if I can get two _hours_ on the laptop without plugging it in.

    My PDA can be used with a GPS attachment to provide turn-by-turn directions when I’m driving. Try that with a laptop and it’s an open question whether I’d be pulled over and arrested for reckless driving before I managed to kill a pedestrian, but either way the outcome wouldn’t be good.

    My PDA can be used while I’m walking down the street. I’d need at least one extra arm to use the laptop when I’m not sitting down.

    Seriously…before my laptop can replace my PDA, the definition of “laptop” will have to change substantially…more than enough to make it unsuitable for many of the things I use my laptop for, and make it look more like a PDA. 🙂

  4. Matt

    If you’re accustomed to carrying a briefcase everywhere you go and don’t actually work very much when in transit, then sure…a laptop is just as good as a PDA for convenience, and better for performance.

    But that doesn’t apply to all (or even most) of us.

    I wouldn’t consider leaving town without my laptop, any more than without a change of clothes or any of the other things that go in luggage. (And yes, a briefcase is luggage to those of us who lead largely paperless lives.) But my PDA fits in my _pocket_. I don’t even go further than the _bathroom_ without it, and thanks to its size I don’t have to.

    Unlike any laptop I’ve ever worked with or heard about, my PDA can run for at least two full working days off its battery without having to be recharged. I’m lucky if I can get two _hours_ on the laptop without plugging it in.

    My PDA can be used with a GPS attachment to provide turn-by-turn directions when I’m driving. Try that with a laptop and it’s an open question whether I’d be pulled over and arrested for reckless driving before I managed to kill a pedestrian, but either way the outcome wouldn’t be good.

    My PDA can be used while I’m walking down the street. I’d need at least one extra arm to use the laptop when I’m not sitting down.

    Seriously…before my laptop can replace my PDA, the definition of “laptop” will have to change substantially…more than enough to make it unsuitable for many of the things I use my laptop for, and make it look more like a PDA. 🙂

  5. Matt

    If you’re accustomed to carrying a briefcase everywhere you go and don’t actually work very much when in transit, then sure…a laptop is just as good as a PDA for convenience, and better for performance.

    But that doesn’t apply to all (or even most) of us.

    I wouldn’t consider leaving town without my laptop, any more than without a change of clothes or any of the other things that go in luggage. (And yes, a briefcase is luggage to those of us who lead largely paperless lives.) But my PDA fits in my _pocket_. I don’t even go further than the _bathroom_ without it, and thanks to its size I don’t have to.

    Unlike any laptop I’ve ever worked with or heard about, my PDA can run for at least two full working days off its battery without having to be recharged. I’m lucky if I can get two _hours_ on the laptop without plugging it in.

    My PDA can be used with a GPS attachment to provide turn-by-turn directions when I’m driving. Try that with a laptop and it’s an open question whether I’d be pulled over and arrested for reckless driving before I managed to kill a pedestrian, but either way the outcome wouldn’t be good.

    My PDA can be used while I’m walking down the street. I’d need at least one extra arm to use the laptop when I’m not sitting down.

    Seriously…before my laptop can replace my PDA, the definition of “laptop” will have to change substantially…more than enough to make it unsuitable for many of the things I use my laptop for, and make it look more like a PDA. 🙂

  6. Matt

    If you’re accustomed to carrying a briefcase everywhere you go and don’t actually work very much when in transit, then sure…a laptop is just as good as a PDA for convenience, and better for performance.

    But that doesn’t apply to all (or even most) of us.

    I wouldn’t consider leaving town without my laptop, any more than without a change of clothes or any of the other things that go in luggage. (And yes, a briefcase is luggage to those of us who lead largely paperless lives.) But my PDA fits in my _pocket_. I don’t even go further than the _bathroom_ without it, and thanks to its size I don’t have to.

    Unlike any laptop I’ve ever worked with or heard about, my PDA can run for at least two full working days off its battery without having to be recharged. I’m lucky if I can get two _hours_ on the laptop without plugging it in.

    My PDA can be used with a GPS attachment to provide turn-by-turn directions when I’m driving. Try that with a laptop and it’s an open question whether I’d be pulled over and arrested for reckless driving before I managed to kill a pedestrian, but either way the outcome wouldn’t be good.

    My PDA can be used while I’m walking down the street. I’d need at least one extra arm to use the laptop when I’m not sitting down.

    Seriously…before my laptop can replace my PDA, the definition of “laptop” will have to change substantially…more than enough to make it unsuitable for many of the things I use my laptop for, and make it look more like a PDA. 🙂

  7. Matt

    If you’re accustomed to carrying a briefcase everywhere you go and don’t actually work very much when in transit, then sure…a laptop is just as good as a PDA for convenience, and better for performance.

    But that doesn’t apply to all (or even most) of us.

    I wouldn’t consider leaving town without my laptop, any more than without a change of clothes or any of the other things that go in luggage. (And yes, a briefcase is luggage to those of us who lead largely paperless lives.) But my PDA fits in my _pocket_. I don’t even go further than the _bathroom_ without it, and thanks to its size I don’t have to.

    Unlike any laptop I’ve ever worked with or heard about, my PDA can run for at least two full working days off its battery without having to be recharged. I’m lucky if I can get two _hours_ on the laptop without plugging it in.

    My PDA can be used with a GPS attachment to provide turn-by-turn directions when I’m driving. Try that with a laptop and it’s an open question whether I’d be pulled over and arrested for reckless driving before I managed to kill a pedestrian, but either way the outcome wouldn’t be good.

    My PDA can be used while I’m walking down the street. I’d need at least one extra arm to use the laptop when I’m not sitting down.

    Seriously…before my laptop can replace my PDA, the definition of “laptop” will have to change substantially…more than enough to make it unsuitable for many of the things I use my laptop for, and make it look more like a PDA. 🙂

  8. JD

    I find that “syncing” a PDA is not any more difficult than using any other software product. Additionally, having a “backup” is useful when needed. My desktop uses network drives which are continuously backed up, why should my portable be different. The devices (Laptop – PDA) serve different needs. I would not regularly type (tap) extensive documents on my Axim, nor do I need to. Most of what I use it for is calendaring, notes, and reference docs (mostly pdf’s). Thanks to Acrobat I can carry a bookshelf of reference manuals and drawings in my pocket.

    I tried the written calendaring method but since my employer uses GroupWise extensively it reguired extensive effort. The PDA sync’s easily and is cheaper in the longer term than buying new planners. What I do want is a larger screen. A PDA that was closer to the size of steno pad would be much more useful.

    At least the crossover between PDA and Laptop makes sense. I really don’t understand the attempt to make a cell phone more than a phone. Apparantly those like me who actually use the “phone” are not the largest share of buyers.

  9. Grant

    Nathan, that hipster PDA is very funny. thanks, Grant

    Matt, I still say that now that my laptop is under 2 pounds and really easy to carry I can take it everywhere (and do). Thanks, Grant

    JD, I agree, everything in the electronics world is trying to supplant everything else, but cell phones should just be cell phones. Oh, maybe they should also be an ipod. and maybe a radio. And you know if I could play clips on that thing… Never mind. Thanks, Grant

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